A Different Christmas

No, festivals do not excite me. The only use i see of them is the fact that you generally do not need to work on those days. But ever since I started working at a news channel, i had to say goodbye to those festival holidays as well. Because, you know, news just keeps on happening. So yes, I am not that big on festivals.

The last Christmas day was slightly different though. Everyone in my team was working and so I took advantage of the fact that that I am the boss and took some time off to join the good folks at Delhi Birds for an old fashioned bird walk. I am not big on group activities either, but the DelhiBird group is led by expert birders who know those secret little corners which I, on my own would never have known. This is how on a cold, foggy Christmas day, I landed up at Dankaur – a village in the middle of nowhere.

The map embedded above only shows you the location of the village. The spot, a now dry lake bed, was a few kms away from the village. The group met up at a designated spot in Noida before taking off towards the destination, around 50 kms away. I was looking forward to this trip for two reasons. Ever since I started working in the live news environment, i lost my weekends, a sense of time and personal life. So, unlike other years, this was to be my first day out birding this season! Secondly, I had finally managed to fix my trusty motorcycle (Dope, as I call him) and this trip out of the city would test my modifications .

For the first few miles we were on the Greater Noida Expressway. Turning off the Expressway at Greater Noida we kept turning into  smaller (and increasingly more potholed)  roads till we reached what looked like a massive grassland with a shallow pond at its center. This is supposed to be the fabled spot, where, on a good day over a 100  Sarus cranes congregate. Will this Christmas day be the proverbial ‘good day’?

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Birdwatching from my Balcony: Barbet you not!

These early spring days are the best. It seems that everyone is out to find a mate. Yes sir, even the Brown-headed Barbet (Megalaima zeylanica) that calls the park next to my balcony home.

One particular morning, in the usual rush to get to work on time, i almost missed the rather enthusiastic kutroo…kutroo…kutroo call of the male bird. I put on my Sherlockian deerstalker and decide to investigate (work be damned). A short search later, i locate the male bird, perched on the crooked branch ardently calling away.

Hello there

He was clearly calling with an agenda. By the time i spotted him, he has been calling for an hour with no sign of tiredness. Hopping from one branch to another, his calls added another dimension to a slightly still Tuesday morning.

Who’s that hiding behind the branch?
Just perched here, being cool
Can you see me now?
Can you see me now?

The calls, especially at this time of the year are meant to attract a female. Given the enthusiasm of the male bird, a female had to be close by. And sure, there she was, a fluffy little thing sitting coyly on a neem branch across the park.

You talking to me?
Yup, it’s me. Nice calling, btw!

The thing about Brown-headed Barbets are that they are rather large, ungainly birds. Along with their cousins from the Western Ghats, the White Cheeked Barbets, they are perhaps the lest visually appealing of the Barbets. But there is another of the species that nests on the Gulmohar tree near my house – the Coppersmith Barbet (Megalaima haemacephala).

Yup. Its me
Yup. Its me

It is a small bird and due to its predominantly green plumage it is rather difficult to spot. However, the red forehead, yellow eye-ring and throat patch with streaked underside and green upperparts gives it a fairly striking appearence.

Look ma, so pretty
Look ma, so pretty
I nest in holes in trees, yes I do
I nest in holes in trees, yes I do

This tiny little bird has a metronomic call that is similar to a coppersmith’s hammer hitting the metal. Hence the name. The bird usually calls more during the springtime so in my native Bengal, its calls are considered to be a prologue to the golden season.

About to fly away

I love these Barbets and I am waiting for when they come a little closer to my balcony. Till then, I leave you with this one parting shot of the little Coppersmith.

Till we meet again!

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